Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Another buyer for Ely Community Center

Local resident presents new offer to buy landmark

Keith Vandervort
Posted 8/22/18

ELY – A proposal by a Korean-influenced organization to purchase the Ely Community Center is raising questions as the city council weighs a purchase offer from the group. Meanwhile, Angela …

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Another buyer for Ely Community Center

Local resident presents new offer to buy landmark

Posted

ELY – A proposal by a Korean-influenced organization to purchase the Ely Community Center is raising questions as the city council weighs a purchase offer from the group. Meanwhile, Angela Campbell, a candidate for city council, has put forward her own purchase offer in an effort to head off the Korean group, known as the K America Foundation.

The Ely Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing last week before voting to recommend a change in the zoning to “residential transition,” as requested by the foundation. The commission has no other involvement with the sale of the building, which is up to the city council to approve.

According to Campbell, about a dozen people spoke out against the zoning change and she took issue with the way the council is handling the offer. “There has been so much secrecy about this whole thing,” she said. “We’re not happy about it.” Campbell is leading a local limited liability corporation to buy the building, with a possible business plan now under development.

Any sale of the building will require approval of a new ordinance, which would require two readings and a public hearing.

“The Community Center has always been an anchor in our community. It has served the community for several generations,” Campbell said.

Campbell provided the Timberjay with a Linked-In summary page that offered more information on the K America Foundation’s plans for the facility. According to the page, the group seeks to launch two different youth camps focusing on language, arts, and technology. The camp will serve primarily Korean-American girls and Korean adoptees in the U.S., who will have the opportunity to learn the Korean language along with the arts, computer coding, film editing, and animation.

The group’s apparent leader, known as Africa Yoon, is a former television host focused on health and wellness as well as past director of the New York AIDS Film Festival. Yoon is described as an “activist, bridging non-profit, culture and entertainment.”

The foundation would maintain its headquarters in the community center. “The K America headquarters is a 28,000 sq. ft. building that will transport its guests to Korea with its design-inspired Korean hanok houses, and like-hanok houses, which draw their spirit alignment with nature, it is seated at the entrance of the Boundary Waters in Ely, Minnesota,” states the group on its Linked-In page.

Campbell read the Linked-In summary to the city council Tuesday night. She also showed a photograph she said is an example of a “hanok” temple. “This is not what I envision at the Community Center,” she said. “My vision for the Community Center was very important in my mayoral campaign of 2012. I see the city as prosperous. I see the city welcoming tourists, families, guests and jobs. I see a busy Community Center. Along with that plan I have proposed additional uses for the center and will present that in the near future.”

Mayor Chuck Novak reminded Campbell that the council does not take action on items submitted under the ‘request to appear” portion of the agenda. “This contract will be taken for consideration when we have more time to look at it,” he said.

He also indicated that all offers to purchase the Community Center must be made through the broker, Steve Bragg, hired by the city of Ely to market the building. Campbell’s realtor, Andrea Zupancich, assured him that the offer was filed on Tuesday with the broker.

In regard to the offer to purchase proposal from K America Foundation, the council, at the beginning of the meeting, deleted the portion of the agenda where they planned to go into closed session to continue developing a counter offer.

Council member Al Forsman said that K America’s offer includes a business plan and other details. “To prepare these things, you definitely have your work cut out for you before our next meeting,” he told Campbell.

Novak said, “The council is looking to protect the best interests of the city when that property is sold, and you can’t just give us money and you get the building and we don’t care what happens to it. This is going to be a very serious discussion.”

City Attorney Kelly Klun noted that the city has been presented with a purchase agreement. “That is considered an offer, and we took that offer to closed session to develop a counter offer. A counter offer has not yet been sent to the proposed buyer,” she said. “That is something we anticipate doing shortly.”

Klun also asserted that any offers on the building must be presented to the council from the broker in order to be considered and acted upon. “Once we have a final purchase agreement executed by the council, that is our final stage. At this point we do not have that. I look to the broker to consider any offer his recommendations on what offers to consider,” she said.

Novak asked the city attorney to present the council with a letter of advice on how to proceed with the issue.

The Community Center has been empty for several years, following the relocation of the public library to a new building. Previous proposals to sell the building have not panned out. The city has stopped heating the building and has plans to remove the building’s propane tank before winter.

Other business

In other business, the council took the following action:

-Approved the council and staff to attend the 2018 League of Minnesota Cities regional meetings;

-Approved a recommendation from the Projects Committee to hold a public hearing to consider the vacation of Pattison Street and 15th Avenue as requested from Mike Loe;

-Agreed with the recommendation from the Projects Committee to install a convex mirror on Klondike Street to alleviate blind corner safety concerns;

-Approved a public hearing for the Ely Bowling Alley to consider action against a state liquor license violation;

-Approved an off-sale liquor sales facility design proposal from Northern Grounds;

-Approved a resolution to apply for grants from IRRRB for the Hidden Valley Mountain Bike Trail proposal, the Prospector’s Loop ATV trail proposal, and the removal of modular housing units at Vermilion Community College.

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